Funding stalls plans
The Brunswick News
February 22,2012

Life at the Jekyll Island Beverage Center is different these days.

The store, along with several other Beachview Shopping Center stores, was moved to a temporary facility on North Beachview Drive in 2010 to accommodate construction of the new convention center and a planned commercial area, to be known as Beach Village.

The development originally was envisioned to include 40,000 square feet of retail space, shops, restaurants, a village green, bank, post office, grocery store and 60 loft residences.

Sandy Drury, an employee at the Beverage Center, says she enjoys the view of the Atlantic Ocean from the trailer in which the business operates, but she's ready for a permanent home.

It's not always easy for tourists to find the temporary shopping center. "Some of them have a hard time finding us," she said.

The journey to a permanent home may have encountered a bump in the road.

The Jekyll Island Authority board voted Tuesday to discontinue its contract with the developer responsible for the $24 million Beach Village project. Developer Winding Road has been unable to find financing for the project, Jekyll Island Authority Executive Director Jones Hooks said.

"We're concerned that Winding Road, in the retail area, is falling behind," Hooks said.

The authority will move forward immediately in seeking an alternative for funding the project, but will not revisit the original requests for proposals, said Eric Garvey, chief communications officer for Jekyll Island Authority.

"We will review the plans and determine what we think we have opportunity to move forward with, either ourselves, self-fund it, or engaging another partner," Garvey said.

The Beach Village is a key part of Jekyll Island's revitalization plan, which includes the new convention center - now 99 percent complete - and two new hotels, a limited-service Hyatt Place hotel and a full-service Westin.

It's vital that the progress of the Beach Village match the pace of the other parts of the island's revitalization plan, Garvey said.

"It's critical that it stay aligned in timing with the rest of the project. (By) maybe not doing the condominiums, the cost would be low enough that we could make it happen," Garvey said.

Construction of the hotels has yet to begin, but progress is being made. The Westin's design review by franchise officials is under way and Hyatt recently approved its hotel design development and financial contracts have been signed. The Hyatt Place hotel could open as soon as Spring 2013.

"It's very important that at the worst-case scenario (the Beach Village) is being built at the same time that the Westin is being built and be completed at the same time," Garvey said. "We can't have ongoing construction for our guests."

While remaining housed in a temporary facility may not be Drury's ideal situation, she believes the outcome will be worth the wait.

It will place the business in the center of island activity and give the business more visibility.

"We're just excited to be a part of the new convention center," Drury said. "In the meantime, we're OK right where we're at."